Book Review: Professional SQL Server 7 Programming

By Bill Graziano on 17 December 2000 | Tags: Book Reviews

Looking for a great gift for that SQL Server developer in your life? Look no farther. In my first book review on the site I'll tell you why this is a great book for SQL Server developers. There is also a SQL Server 2000 version of this book.

Wrox is one of the better technical publishing companies out there. They consistently produce great books on a variety of topics. You can always find their books by looking for the bright red spine. I have four of their books now. Two I use regularly myself (HTML and ASP Databases) to build this site and two I got to review. I loaned Professional SQL Server Development with Access 2000 to a coworker and haven't been able to get it back. I'll work on getting a review up after the first of the year.

This review focuses on the one thousand, one hundred and thirty-eight pages of SQL Server love contained in Professional SQL Server 7.0 Programming by Rob Vieira. In the Who is this book for blurb, they write:

The focus of the book is highly developer-orientated - database administration is covered only insofar as it affects the developer, or needs to be thought of during the development process. No knowledge of SQL Server is assumed, although in order to follow this book, you do need to already have an understanding of programming basics such as variables, data types, and procedural planning. However, there is no requirement to know any particular programming language, so you'll get as much out of the book if you're programming in C++ as you would in Visual Basic.

I'd agree with the strong developer focus. I found ten pages on backup and restore. Just enough for a developer to backup their database and restore it if they needed to. It covers backup from a T-SQL standpoint and using Enterprise Manager. If you are an administrator writing stored procedures for your developers you can certainly benefit from this book. There are also good sections for DBA's on indexes, transactions, design and stored procedures.

You can see from the Table of Contents that most of the topics are developer related though:

Chapter 1: SQL Server 7.0 - Particulars and History
Chapter 3: Tools of the Trade
Chapter 4: The Foundation Statements of T-SQL
Chapter 5: Joining Tables
Chapter 5: Creating and Altering Tables
Chapter 7: Constraints
Chapter 8: Normalization and Other Basic Design Issues
Chapter 9: Speeding Performance: SQL Server Storage and Index Structures
Chapter 10: Views
Chapter 11: Writing Scripts and Batches
Chapter 12: Code Storage: Stored Procedures
Chapter 13: Transactions and Locks
Chapter 14: Triggers
Chapter 15: Asking a Better Question: Advanced Queries
Chapter 16: Spreading Things Out: Distributed Queries and Transactions
Chapter 17: SQL Cursors
Chapter 18: Making a Change... Bulk Copy Program and Data Transformation Services
Chapter 19: Replication
Chapter 20: Advanced Design
Chapter 21: OLAP
Chapter 22: English Query and Full-Text Search
Chapter 23: Security
Chapter 24: Performance Tuning
Chapter 25: Administration Overview

Appendix A: Global Variables
Appendix B: Function Listing
Appendix C: Tools for Our Time
Appendix D: Error Listing
Appendix E: Access Upsizing

Since I can't cover every topic of this 1,000+ page book I'll focus on a few areas. My first use of this book was for a question in the forums on transaction isolation level. I found just what I was looking for in the chapter on Transactions and Locks. Rob has a good description of the four isolation levels and what that means to developers. This is an area that most developers don't need to stray from SQL Server's default behavior. The book provides a description of the default behavior and describes the other isolation levels and why you might want to use each one. It also covers the basics such a BEGIN TRAN and COMMIT TRAN.

There is a good introduction to SQL in the first few chapters. It covers the basic SQL statements and the more advanced topics. The bulk of the examples use the Northwind database that ships with SQL Server. You can also download the SQL script files used in the book from the Wrox web site. The book also teaches JOINs using the correct ANSI standard join syntax.

There are sections on normalization, primary keys and constraints. There is a very good chapter on database modeling for larger databases. One of the key skills that database developers learn is the importance of a good data model early in a project. This book covers those techniques, discusses their importance and provides good examples.

A large part of my current job involves writing SQL scripts and stored procedures. This book includes a good description of script writing including variables, looping and conditional logic. It also covers my favorite under-used tool, OSQL.EXE. The book discusses stored procedures, parameters, returning values and error handling.

The book includes a very good chapter on data storage, pages, extents and various index types. This was a very interesting chapter and I learned quite a bit from it.

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone developing for SQL Server. It has good lessons for newer developers and is a good reference for more experienced developers. DBA's can benefit from the script writing, locking, storage and other chapters. Oh and if you do decide to buy, please buy from my store at FatBrain.

This book is also being updated for SQL Server 2000. Professional SQL Server 2000 Programming is due to be released any day now.

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